Get to Know a Candidate -- Fast Facts
Family: Husband, Ron Bienstock; Daughters, Molly, 19, and Nicky, 17
Job: Swim instructor, Ridgewood YMCA
Current Office: Mayor of Fair Lawn
Education: B.A., University of Rochester (Psychology); M.A., New York University (Sports and Fitness Management)
Ties to Fair Lawn: Has lived in Fair Lawn for 17 years; Husband Ron grew up in Fair Lawn.
Favorite Movie: Best in Show
Favorite Author: Ken Follett
Favorite Political or Cultural Icons: Hillary Clinton
Favorite Food: Salad
Activities & Organizations (past and present): Fair Lawn Green Team, Founder; , Fair Lawn Library Board, President; North Jersey Masters Track and Field Club; Swim Coach; Temple Avoda, Board member; World Runners, Volunteer; Save the Children, Volunteer
Hobbies: Triathlons (cycling, swimming, running); knitting; reading
Message: “We’re the ones who care. We really take the time to analyze issues. We’re the ones who are going to maintain stable taxes. We’re the ones who talk about it. I don’t hear the other people talking about taxes, but we’ve heard that from all of the residents. Taxes are number one, services and maintaining funding for the library. Those are the three key issues. And then of course safety.”
Council Candidate Forum Responses:
As your mayor, I know the two most important concerns on people's minds are property taxes and safety. I will do everything to keep stable taxes and balance the many great services we provide, while maintaining fiscal responsibility. And I will continue to fight for safety of all residents of the borough, whether it's getting new grants, cleaning up after the hurricane, etc. Your health and safety matter most.
If elected, what physical improvement and service improvement would you make in FL?
The first thing we need to do is recover from the hurricane. We suffered tremendous damage from the hurricane. Our parks, homes need to be fixed. I will continue to fight for residents through acquisition of FEMA money and open space funding. We need to repair and can improve from there. Traffic really has not changed in the past 10 years. What's changed is that more people have more cars. Enforcement of traffic rules is the solution.
How would you seek to improve relations between the Police Department and the governing body?
It's the residents who really are the eyes and ears of this community. Just read another report of a resident calling about a burglary in progress. Our police department did a fabulous job and apprehended the suspect. Our police are doing a great job. I sat on the negotiating committee and we settled the contract. Yes there are lawsuits, every department and company has problems, but we are moving ahead and I think I have a very good relationship with the chief and officers. Things will improve.
Overbuilding. Concern of new apartment units and lack of open space. Would you seek to change zoning processes and regulations? If so, how?
Fair Lawn is very developed. About 98 percent. What's important is balance. Must balance development with open space. Served on council that brought development, filled empty spaces, created rateables and preserved open space. Cites Naugle House being preserved, pocket park by fire house on George Street.
What should we do with Memorial Pool?
I love Memorial Pool, it's one of the reasons my husband and I moved here. It was one of the first areas I looked at when I got on council. Looked at previous plans, and I think we're at the point where we must look at that again. We must form a pool committee. Membership was actually up this year. People are using Memorial pool more and more.
How do party politics affect Fair Lawn council and should they matter?
Having served for four years, I can attest to party politics. 95 percent of the time as a council we do vote together. Sometimes politics get involved, but I have always voted what I feel is right for the residents. What comes first is what is best for this community.
How would you be accessible to residents as a council member?
My Republican opponents keep saying they're not politicians, but I think once you align yourself to a party, you are politically active. I have been available to residents. What I've done -- during heat wave, I opened up cooling centers. I set up coffees -- I'm available on weekends to meet with people. I'm also fortunate that I have a part-time job that offers me flexibility to meet with people in the afternoon or evening.
What can the council do to maintain quality of school and keep town affordable for residents?
Can encourage people to run for the Board of Ed. We always need people to represent the school system. We have a great school system, the education in this town is great. If you look at the education you get for the property taxes, it's pretty outstanding. However, changes need to be made and you need good reps on the Board of Ed. Need people who are committed to looking very closely at what goes on in the School Board.
Several towns including Lodi, Saddle Brook, Maywood and Rochelle Park formed a group to work on flooding of Saddle River. Why isnt there a Fair Lawn rep on this coalition? (Ed. Note: Fair Lawn actually does have a rep on the coalition, Albee Palmieri)
Our residents were invited to be on the coalition. We had already established a flood committee and reached out to them. I'm not sure what happened with them, but they were contacted. To update on Arcadia - -PSE&G had to do their work, and I was told it was completed and up to the county to finish up work and abate flooding.
What type of recreational and social programs woud you like to see for people with disabilties and how can we better include people with disabilities in our community?
Good time to say thank you to the ADA committee for all that you've done. Been a little bit more nudging recently. People need to be reminded of everyone that's out there. The dance we had at the Community Center was an example of nudging. Getting adults with special needs, who have a lot of recreational activities, we need to get them more social events. It was great to bring them into the Community Center where they could just hang out.
Define your vision for progress for Fair Lawn in the 21st century?
On development in Fair Lawn. Boards are bipartisan and independent. I voted to limit McMansions and agree they're out of control. My vision: Stable taxes is #1. That's an issue we must work on together. Safety is also key. Must not worry about crossing the street. We also must have recreational activities. "Dancing in the Street" event was my idea of bringing the community together to have fun.
Specific proposals to keep taxes under control to make FL affordable for young families and seniors?
On the tax issue, it's the Democratic majority that has kept the taxes stable. Already looking at shared services with surrounding towns on recycling. Talked to manager about using a collection service. Recently passed third-party ambulance billing, another way of increasing revenue without going into your pockets. We need to increase revenue but also keep services you're used to having.
Name one shared service you'd like to introduce or investigate
Recycling. We had a discussion about the possibility of outsourcing the Recycling Department. I voted against it because I thought they were doing a great job and outsourcing wasn't the direction to go. I'm so thankful we didn't outsource them because during the hurricane it was those employees who were helping so much. But since we have a great department we need to reach out and share with other towns. What we have works. We can get income from other towns and share the recycling.
Democracy means building consensus. I was elected as mayor because I'm an independent thinker who will do what's right for the residents. I'm proud of the Democratic record here. I will seek more grant money and deliver taxpayer relief. Together, we will lead Fair Lawn through these difficult economic times so young families and seniors are proud to call Fair Lawn their home.